In the past couple of years, my wardrobe has shrunken considerably.
London is the best city in the world but the flats here are so small and the wardrobes absolutely tiny. I have no space to store clothes I don’t wear in the hope that one day I may fit into them again or keep those fancy dresses in case I’m invited to some special event. If I don’t wear it regularly, it must go.
I did my first wardrobe detox out of necessity. I needed the space. What I didn’t realise is how liberating it would be. Cleaning out those emotional purchases I regretted the moment I set foot home or the crap with the price tag still attached I bought on sale but knew I wouldn’t wear much cleared both my wardrobe and my head. I felt like if I could take control of my wardrobe, then I could take control of my life, too.
But, I get it. The thought of tackling a huge wardrobe is daunting. Where to even start? Here are the step-by-step process and clever tricks I use to detox my wardrobe:
STEP 1: MAP OUT YOUR LIFESTYLE
I’m a magpie for pretty cocktail dresses and high heels shoes. They’re so pretty! If you were to take a look at my wardrobe, you’d probably think I go out every night but nothing could be further from the truth. I prefer to spend my evenings curled up with a good book. And then when I wake up in the morning, I complain I have nothing casual to wear!
In the past, whenever I did a wardrobe detox, I’d tend to keep those beautiful cocktail dresses even if I never wore them. These days, before getting down to business, I map out my lifestyle. This means getting clear on how you spend your time so you can create a wardrobe full of clothes that are appropriate for those activities. For example, my lifestyle is as follows:
45% work: I work mostly from home so this calls for casual clothes that I can wear to run errands or meet up with friends at the pub
40% social life: casual smart pieces like sheath dresses, lace blouses and suits I can wear to meetings with clients, a dinner with friends or the opening of a new shop
15% special occasions: the fancy dresses and killer heels that I adore but are suitable only for the most elegant occasions
10% gym wear: I put only 10% because even though I try to work out at least 30 minutes every day, I don’t need more than 2/3 gym outfits
Once you’ve mapped out your life, think about how many of each article of clothing you’re gonna need based upon each season. For example, I’d need only a couple of dresses for each season, 3 or 4 knit dresses for winter, 2 pairs of tailored trousers for fall/winter and 2 pairs for spring/summer… You get the idea. Don’t forget to include accessories and underwear, too!
STEP 2: TAKE EVERYTHING OUT
Before order comes chaos. Open your wardrobe and take everything out. Place it on the bed or wardrobe. Once your wardrobe’s empty, go through each item one by one and throw it in the appropriate pile (more on this in the next step).
If you have a big wardrobe, work by sections. Start by taking out all your tops and shirts, then move onto your dresses, then outerwear… you get the drill.
STEP 3: MAKE YOUR PILES
Time to get down and dirty. Start off by making a few piles for your clothes:
- The Must Keeps: the staples in your wardrobe, those items you adore and wear often.
- The Maybes: the items you like but haven’t worn much. Give yourself some time to decide if they’re worth keeping.
- The Friends Pile: the items you don’t want anymore but your friends may love. If you have someone in mind for that cute skater dress, take a photo and send it to her. If she doesn’t want it, you can always throw it in the next pile.
- The Charity Pile: the items still in good condition neither you nor your friends want.
- The Throaways: there’s no hope for these items. They’re too old and tattered to be of any use to everyone. Throw them in the bin.
Sometimes, you just have to look at a dress or a skirt to know immediately where it belongs. Other times, it’s not as clear cut. If you’re undecided between two or three piles, ask yourself these questions:
1. How Many Outfits Can You Create With It?
We’ve all done it. You’re strolling down the street and a beautiful skirt catches your eye. You know it’s not your usual style and you have nothing in your wardrobe to go with it, but you don’t care. You buy it anyway. And never wear it… cos you have nothing to pair it with! Duh!
This may sound harsh but if you can’t create at least three outfits with the same item, sell it or donate it.
FIY, thinking that beautiful dress may go well with that new top doesn’t count. You have to create all three outfits and try them on, complete with the accessories you would wear with the look. If you can’t do this, it’s time to part with it.
2. Does It Make You Feel Good?
It doesn’t matter if a piece is pretty or practical enough for daily wear, if it fits badly and makes you feel like a dowdy old lady, toss it. Likewise, if you have a dress you don’t wear often but makes you feel like a million dollars when you do, keep it. I’m a firm believer in keeping only those pieces that make you feel good. Because when you feel good, you look good and you do good. It gives you more confidence so you can tackle anything that comes your way and be ready for new adventures.
3. Can It Be Customized?
You know that stunning floor-length bridesmaid gown that’s been gathering dust in your wardrobe after your BFF’s wedding? If you don’t plan to wear it again anytime soon, why not take it to a seamstress and have it shortened into a cocktail dress you can wear again and again?
Or that blazer you’re not wearing because it sits wrong on your shoulder? Bring it to a seamstress and have it tailored just for you. You can always find a way to improve a piece and make it wearable again.
P.S. Do this within one month. If you’ve haven’t taken it to the seamstress by then, face the cold hard truth: you never will!
4. Can It Be Repaired?
Have you stopped wearing that nice blouse because it’s missing a button or are you keeping your fave pair of jeans in the closet cos the zip is broken?
It it can be repaired, repair it. If you can’t do it yourself, take it to a seamstress. She’ll fix it in no time. But, do it within one month. Otherwise, you never will.
Put it a box. If within six months you haven’t worn it even once, donate it or sell it. You’ve obviously forgotten all about it – a sure sign you didn’t care about it all that much.
BUY ONE, SELL ONE
It’s easy to fall back into your old hoarding habits after a wardrobe detox. To keep my wardrobe uncluttered and organised, I’ve recently created a new policy: buy one, sell/donate one. Every time I want to buy something new, I have to get rid of something else. For example, earlier this month I’ve bought a new black Ted Baker jacket. I fell in love with the timeless style and the cute bows on the pockets. To make room for it, I’ve given my old Oasis jacket with bell sleeves to a friend. As much as I loved that jacket, I know it’s more of a trendy piece that’s gonna look dated in a few years. But if I hadn’t been willing to part with it, I wouldn’t have bought the Ted Baker jacket. This is also a great trick to figure out how much you really want that new piece. If you aren’t willing to get rid of anything in your wardrobe to get it, chances are it’s not that important to you and you wouldn’t wear it that often.
P.S. I often give away old clothes to friends or charity, but if it’s a designer piece you’re partying with, consider selling it on Vestiaire Collective instead. You can always use that money to fund your next purchase. 😉
STEP 4: CELEBRATE YOUR NEW WARDROBE
You can stop at step 3 if you want to but I like to go the extra mile and create a beautiful closet. I clean up and vacuum my wardrobe. I lovingly fold each item and place it in its arranged place in the closet.. This is one of those rare times when your wardrobe is completely empty. It’s a blank canvas for your to decorate and arrange however you like. Honour it and make it pretty.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A WARDROBE DETOX
Once the detox is over, take a closer look at the pieces that have made it back into your wardrobe and those you’re throwing out. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do the pieces you’re keeping have in common?
- What styles of clothes, fabrics and colours do you keep buying but never wear?
Next time you’re going shopping, use these answers to buy clothes you’re gonna love, wear and keep for a long time.
Over to you, now. Have you ever done a wardrobe detox? Let me know how it went in the comments below.